RECORD breaking ran out of steam a day short of ending an exceptional year on the highest prices seen at the Western Wool Centre (WWC) for at least 22 years.
The Western Indicator (WI), the full-fleece price guide range across 18 to 22 micron and the Merino cardings guide set new Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) records on Wednesday last week, the second last live-auction day’s trade at the WWC this year.
But buyers had closed off their accounts and were already in holiday mode right from the opening bids on the last trading day, Thursday, with prices retreating quickly from the previous day’s records despite fewer bales on offer and a last chance for three weeks to fill a shipping container with wool.
“After yesterday’s frantic bidding and large price increases, the Fremantle fleece market has lost some steam today,” AWEX technical officer Andrew Rickwood said in his report on trading.
“Buyers have been more tentative with their purchases, this has resulted in nearly half the gains achieved in the previous sale being nullified.”
But even allowing for the last-day fade out, wool prices in WA remain at extraordinary levels.
The WI, a general guide to the overall strength of WA’s wool market, slipped 26 cents a kilogram on Thursday to finish the year at 1816c/kg clean, still 395c better than where it started 2017.
On seven of the last 14 trading days since November 1, the WI set a new record price, according to AWEX statistics.
The current record of 1842c/kg, set on Wednesday last week, was its third consecutive trading day record and took its tally of all-time records set this year to 10.
On Wednesday the 18-21 micron guides all jumped between 80c and 85c – the second biggest consolidated price move at the WWC this year – in a spectacular last hurrah for 2017 live-auction wool trade record breaking.
The following day the guides gave back between 20c and 44c.
The cumulative effect was the 18 micron guide finished up 36c for the week to close the year at 2277c/kg, 18.5 guide up 48c to 2181c/kg, 19 guide up 40c to 2059c/kg, 19.5 guide up 43c to 1958c/kg, 20 guide up 40c to 1850c/kg and the 21 guide up 61c to 1739c/kg.
On the Wednesday the 22 micron and Merino cardings guides trailed the others, only jumping 71c and 77c respectively to new records, but on Thursday they also only eased 19c and 17c to finish the week up 52c overall at 1629c/kg (22 micron) and up 60c at 1488c/kg.
To put 2017 wool price movements into some perspective, AWEX statistics show the 19.5 micron price guide – according to Australian Wool Testing Authority data the average WA wool fibre diameter this season is 19.6 micron – hit its lowest point on January 24 at 1614c/kg, for a range of 385c this year.
But even at its lowest, the 19.5 micron guide was still higher this year than its top price in every other year, bar one, since 2001 when that guide was introduced in WA.
The only previous time the 19.5 micron guide best price in any year exceeded this year’s lowest price, was 1657c/kg in 2011 – the last exceptional WA wool year when price records previous to this year were set.
Rising star of the past two months, the Merino cardings guide, was higher at the close on Thursday than the 19.5 micron guide had been for 2001-10 and 2012-14.
Essentially, on the last trading day this year wool buyers were prepared to pay more for predominantly short lambs’ wool than the top price they had paid for average WA full fleece wool in 13 of the past 17 years.
The amazing statistical story of this year’s wool prices covers the full spectrum, including finer wools which saw something of a resurgence after several years in relative doldrums.
The average price of 2081c/kg across the full year for the 18 micron guide is better than the top prices the guide achieved in every previous year, except 2011.
Elders WA wool manager Danny Burkett said the spread of increasing strength across all Merino wools was the aspect of this year’s trading which pleased him most.
“The thing that most impressed me, particularly in the past six months, was that each and every spring-shearing woolgrower had the opportunity to participate in the exceptional market,” Mr Burkett said.
“From a solid base there was a steady step up the ladder – not a rocket ride – which gave the whole supply chain a chance to adapt to the new levels.
“It wasn’t a shock, like licking your finger and sticking it in a power socket.
“It was a gradual rise from a solid platform.
“The other good thing about it was that the finer end wasn’t forgotten.
“There was a very strong resurgence in (demand for) finer wools and woolgrowers who had persisted with them finally are getting some just rewards.”
Mr Burkett pointed out the closing price for 18 micron wools was 34 per cent better than last year, for 19 micron wools it was 29pc better and for 21 micron it was 23pc better.
“Woolgrowers used to get excited when a bale of wool was worth more than $1000 – then a few years ago it was $1500 – now it’s over $3000,” he said.
This year the WWC reopened after the Christmas and new year break with a red-hot market and record prices on the first two days.
Wool brokers and buyers are waiting with anticipation to see if history repeats on January 10, 2018.